THE FORBES FAMILY
The Forbes Family in Westborough, Massachusetts
Since the new name — "Forbes Junior High School" — has appeared
on the front of the former High School on West Main Street, there has
been considerable speculation about and interest in the Forbes name.
In the present day of shifting population, when our citizenry goes and
comes, often putting down no roots, it is good to dwell for a moment
on one family which has remained in Westborough for eight generations,
taking an active part in the town's progress and development, and, in a
measure, benefitting the town by its generosity and by its old-fashioned
standards of neighborliness, integrity and sense of duty. Many new-
comers to Westborough know nothing of the family which is one of the
oldest in town, and doubtless have no inkling as to the use of the name
in connection with several civic institutions. Consequently, this brief
account is being written, both to give information and to correct some
misapprehensions in relation to the Forbes family.
The first member of the family, Daniel Forbes (or Forbush, as the
name was sometimes spelled) 1620-1687, was an immigrant from
Kinellar, Scotland. He settled in Cambridge and married a second wife,
Deborah Rediat, in 1679. He subsequently moved to Marlborough, of
which Westborough was then a part, when his third and youngest child,
Jonathan Forbes (1684-1768) was born. Daniel died when Jonathan
was three years of age. In 1705 Jonathan married Hannah Holloway,
and his uncle, Nathaniel Oakes, gave them a farm, the deed reading:
"for the love and affection I bear my kinsman, Jonathan Forbes, 40
acres of my Coran farm and 12 acres in Strawberry Meadow".
In 1714 Jonathan and Hannah bought three tracts of land near our
town reservoir. He built a dam and a sawmill near the present dam, and
built his house on Spring Road. The cellar-hole is still there and the great
door-stone provides the front step of the old Brigham-Forbes homestead,
formerly the home of Miss Helen Cady Forbes and now owned by Mr.
George MacDonald, on the Grafton Road. This house was erected about
1750 by Moses Brigham. Upon his death it became the property of his
son-in-law, another Jonathan Forbes, and remained in the Forbes family
until 1870. It came back into the family in 1929, when it was bought
by Fannie Hooker Forbes.
Jonathan and Hannah had nine children, the second eldest being
Jonathan (1746-1805). In 1775 his son Jonathan was born and he mar-
ried Esther Chamberlain of Westborough. Their son Ephraim ( 1815-
1863) married Catherine Avery White of Roxbury, and their children
were Catherine Salome Forbes, Francis White Forbes, William Trow-
bridge Forbes, and Esther Louise Forbes. Catherine White, incidentally,
was the great, great, grandaughter of Samuel Adams of Revolutionary
fame, and her great grandmother was one of the Daughters of Liberty.
Catherine Salome married Charles Brigham Kittredge and estab-
lished themselves in Seattle, Washington.
William T. Forbes, a graduate of Amherst, taught for some years
at Roberts College in Constantinople and later became Judge of Probate
Court of Worcester County. Of his five children, the youngest, Esther
L. Forbes, is the distinguished novelist.
Esther Louise Forbes was a graduate of Mt. Holyoke College when
it was a Seminary, and taught for many years in Westborough Schools.
She taught the primary class in the Congregational Church Sunday
School for forty years.
Francis W. Forbes married Jane Nason of Westborough and they
had one daughter, Helen Cady Forbes, a writer of children's books and
a librarian in the New York Public Library. His second wife was Fannie
E. Hooker, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry M. Hooker of Chicago and
their children were Henry Hooker Forbes, of Worcester, Mrs. Edward
D. Homans and Mrs. Howard S. Foster, of Westborough. Mr.' Hooker
was a native of Enfield, Massachusetts and was of a long line of dis-
tinguished ancestry. He was a direct descendant of Captain Joseph
Hooker and a cousin of General "Fighting Joe" Hooker of Civil War
fame. He was one of the pioneers of Chicago and had seen it destroyed
twice by lire and twice rebuilt; and took an active part in its rebuilding.
His daughter, Fannie, remembered vividly the second great fire which
occurred in 1871 when she was eleven years old.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Forbes were deeply interested in their town and
always had a lively interest especially in young people and their futures.
They were active workers in the Congregational Church, in which Mr.
Forbes represented the seventh generation of Deacons in his family.
He was also President of the Westborough Savings Bank, President of
the Algonquin Council Boy Scouts of America, Treasurer of West-
borough State Hospital, one of the founders, with his sister, Miss E,
Louise Forbes, of the Thursday Club.
They demonstrated their unfailing concern for people and their
thoughtfulness of others in their efforts to make Westborough a better
place in which to live. It was philanthropy in the highest sense with the
thought of money only as a necessary means of attaining the results.
Such gifts, in this day of excessive taxation, are things of the past, ex-
cept through means of tax-saving foundations.
During a period of many years Mr. and Mrs. Forbes made many
donations to Westborough, as follows:
1. Before the Boston and Albany Railroad built the present railway
station and followed its present course, the railroad lines passed through
the east end of the town square, across the lower end of Summer Street
and parallel to Milk Street, and across what is now the lower part of
Winter Street. In 1913 Mr. and Mrs. Forbes paid for the extension of
Winter Street from Summer Street through to Phillips Street, thus mak-
ing a through way from High Street to Church Street. At that time the
American" Legion Post planted along the new street seven trees in
memory of the men who died in World War I.
2. In 1924, new sidewalks with stone curbing were built at their ex-
pense on High Street.
3. In 1917 before the days of Old Age Assistance and Social Security,
realizing the need for living quarters for elderly men and women, Mr.
and Mrs. Forbes built and endowed Kirkside on Church Street, a beau-
tiful home "to provide and maintain convenient and healthful rooms,
apartments for persons of limited means or in need of better quarters
than they can afford". In 1950, because of new state regulations in-
volving great expense in starling and remodelling the house, and because
people no longer needed its particular facilities, it was discontinued
as a home and sold by Kirkside Corporation to the Congregational
Church for use as a parish house. The endowment fund plus the money
received from the sale of the house now constitutes The Kirkside,
Inc. managed by the Forbes daughters, Mrs. Edward D. Homans and
Mrs. Howard S. Foster, and a board of directors, to administer it for
the same general purposes of the original endowment.
4. In 1924 Mr. and Mrs. Forbes saw the great need of a high school
which would be not only a replacement of the greatly inadequate
building on School Street, but a monument of civic importance and
interest to add to the efficiency of our schools and to the beauty of the
town. They chose the site of the former Whitney House Hotel on West
Main Street, which had been destroyed by fire in 1907, and offered to
build a Junior-Senior High School upon the site. In November, 1924,
a town meeting voted to accept from Mr. and Mrs. Forbes the deed
for the old Whitney House land, provided they build a school upon it.
Later in 1924 work began on the construction of the new building,
designed by the architectural firm of Ritchie, Parsons & Taylor, by P. G.
DeArmond & Sons, Contractors. These names, together with those of the
donors and building committee, are on a large bronze plaque on the
second floor of the school, opposite the entrance to the Auditorium.
In May, 1926 the building was ready for occupancy. A ceremony
of dedication was held in the new Auditorium on May 11, the day on
which the pupils moved in. Only the finest materials were used in its
building, and it was the wish of the donors that the school be complete
in every detail. The woodwork was of uniform finish throughout; sew-
ing, cooking rooms, shop, gymnasium, laboratories, were completely
equipped with the latest type of seats, lockers, floor coverings. The
Auditorium was furnished with four types of scenery, hung with blue
velvet curtains on stage and at the windows; Wedgwood plaques were
inserted on the walls and the lighting fixtures were of Venetian glass.
The grounds were completely landscaped and the flag-pole was bought
in Seattle and brought here via the Panama Canal and fitted into the
bronze-and-stone base prepared for it. During the next twenty-five years
the school was under the supervision of the Superintendent of Schools,
J. Harding Armstrong, and its janitor, Mr. Lee Enman (one janitor
being completely efficient at the time) and a janitress, Miss Catherine
Merchant. At a twenty-year anniversary celebration it was noted by all
visitors that the condition of the building had not noticeably deteriorated
in any way. The pupils and teachers were very proud of their high
school, and their affection for it remains unchanged today.
5. In 1926 Mrs. Forbes established a trust fund of $25,000 at the
Mechanics National Bank of Worcester — "the income of which is to
be expended to assist pupils who have graduated from Westborough
High School, in securing a higher education. The loans shall be decided
upon by the Superintendent of Schools, the Principal of the High School
and the Chairman of the School Committee". The fund has grown in
value during the past years and has been used by many young men
and women. It is interesting to note that nearly all borrowers have
repaid the loans.
6. In 1927, a former resident, Mrs. Isadore Forbes (not a relative of
Mrs. Francis Forbes) left the sum of $35,000 for the building of a new
Town Hall. Since the amount was not sufficient to replace the old
Town Hall, Mr. and Mrs. Forbes gave the town $50,000 for that pur-
pose. Later the town appropriated $67,500 to finish the building.
7. In 1924, they built the Community House on East Main Street and
gave it, with the large tract of land adjoining it, as a field house and
playground for the town. It provided quarters for the High School
Athletic Association, members of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and visit-
ing players. This action was in line with their constant wish to improve
the appearance of the town. The Community House was built on the
cellar hole of a factory destroyed by fire some years previously, which
was an eyesore on East Main Street. Tennis courts were built nearby
on the remains of another burned factory. From 1924 when the building
was finished until 1948 when the building and playground were turned
over to the town, the Forbeses paid for the maintenance, heating and
janitorship of the building. The entire playing field was graded by Mr.
Forbes, personally, with the occasional assistance of a helper. He, liter-
ally, gave of his strength and sweat to the youth of the town. The town
later sold the field to the Bay State Abrasive Co.
8. In 1933, they presented to the town the Spurr House on Parkman
Street, now used by the American Legion and the Westborough His-
torical Society, together with one-half acre of land and an additional
12,000 square feet of land belonging to the Moulton house adjoining
the Spurr house. "This land is to be used for playground facilities for
the Junior-Senior High School".
9. At the same time Mrs. Forbes purchased and gave to the town
the land beside the Town Hall, consisting of 13,360 square feet, to be
used as a parking lot by townspeople.
10. On July 18, 1939 Mr. and Mrs. Forbes set up a trust fund of $5,000
for the Boy Scout work in Westborough. Some years previously, Mr.
Forbes gave a substantial gift to Algonquin Council. He had been
deeply interested in Boy Scout work for many years and was a life
member of Algonquin Council. In appreciation of his work and strong
interest he was honored by being made a Silver Beaver Scout.
11. In September, 1946, the Forbes Assembly Program Trust Fund of
$5,000 was established "the income of which is to be paid over to the
Principal of the High School to provide an address by a speaker, or
an entertainment of an educational nature for assembly programs".
12. Market Block, a 100-years-old building at 4-6 West Main Street
was bought by Mr. Forbes and demolished. On its site the handsome
business and apartment building was built, now owned by Mr. William
Ford. The sole purpose of this project was to enhance the appearance
of our Main Street.
13. About this time, realizing the need of a Postoffice building of
dignity and efficiency in Westborough, Mr. and Mrs. Forbes erected the
building on the east side of the square for that purpose, and it was
opened for business in April, 1930. The need for larger quarters made it
necessary for the Postoffice to vacate the building and it was sold to
Mr. Emmanuel Aronson.
14. By the terms of her will, Mrs. Forbes left the Evangelical Congre-
gational Church a fund of $25,000 — this in addition to numerous gifts
during her lifetime. To recognize her work in the church and her
generosity to it, a room in the vestry was furnished in her honor and
named "The Fannie Forbes Room".
15. At a critical time in the fortunes of the young Bay State Abrasive
Co. Mrs. Forbes made them a very substantial loan, which carried them
through that critical period.
16. In 1930 Mr. and Mrs. Forbes gave the Forbes Hall of Science,
together with its complete equipment, to Yankton College, South Dakota.
17. In 1929 they gave a fully equipped Library to a missionary school
18. In 1939 they gave a room, completely furnished, to the new
campus of Colby College in Maine.
Of the private philanthropies, nothing, of course, can be said except
that they were numerous and continuous over the many years of their
lives. Many a homeowner in Westborough has clear title to his property
because of mortgages that were cancelled after a few payments, or be-
cause of personal loans without interest that were cancelled.
Since World War II, the changes in living conditions, caused by
increased incomes as well as by greatly increased taxation, make it
virtually impossible for such civic and individual philanthropy. Mr. and
Mrs. Forbes will be remembered by those who knew them and by those
who benefitted by their graciousness and generosity; and for those who
are new to the town, it is well to know of such selfless people.